Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… is a film that should have spawned a franchise. Why this never happend is anyone’s guess. This slick and stylish ‘80s actioner from James Bond director Guy Hamilton features some wonderful action sequences, a rousing score and strong lead performances. It’s failure at the box office must surely be one of Hollywood’s WTF? moments, right up there with why did we try to make Orlandos, Bloom and Jones, movie stars and who the hell signed-off the John Carter movie marketing materials?
Based on The Destroyer book series, Hamilton’s film sees Fred Ward as a slobbish NYPD detective who is presumed dead. He’s far from it though as instead he is given a second chance as super crime fighter, Remo Williams. Trained by the mysterious Korean master Chiun, Remo learns to do a multitude of amazing feats including martial arts, walking on water and dodging bullets – pretty much anything that Keanu Reeve’s Neo could do – without the added assistance of CGI.
If Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins… can be summed-up in one word, then it’s ‘fun’. Director Guy Hamilton helped steer James Bond in the ultimate Bond-movie prototype in Goldfinger, and he shows that he still has the skill to launch a franchise almost a quarter of a century later with this 1985 film. Sure, it may have beefed-it at the box office, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hold up today. Andrew Lazlo’s grim and gritty cinematography shows a New York before the city’s resurgence, with the film’s stand-out set piece taking place on a scaffolded Statue Of Liberty. Craig Safan’s score is splendid, hitting action beats and themes which have sadly been forgotten in the 21st Century.
Fred Ward makes an interesting unconventional lead. He gives Remo the right amount of wit, charm and confusion but he never makes him an unconvincing man of action. Joel Grey’s Chiun is like the bastard off-spring of Yoda and Mister Miyagi and his Korean make-up was Oscar nominated. Today it may verge on racism, but it’s a testament to his acting and the make-up that his performance never feels like caricature.
A one of a kind action movie, Remo was intended to kickstart a series of adventures, hence the title which was renamed Remo: Unarmed And Dangerous in the UK, presumably when they realised that no other adventures would be forthcoming. It’s a shame, because it really does feel like there was a lot of room to make the character grow. Remo Williams:The Adventure Begins… is ripe for the remaking, but any such endeavour would surely be lacking in what makes this movie special.